Christian Heilmann

Flirting with the Flash Community

Thursday, August 9th, 2007 at 11:15 pm

It doesn’t happen often that you get invited to speak at a conference about a technology you never programmed yourself. However, I will give a talk at the Flashforum Konferenz Cologne this September. I got a bit daring and came up with a topic that I couldn’t believe they signed off called Emancipated JavaScript and the Coming Out of the Flash community.

What this means is that I will try to spark a bit more enthusiasm in the Flash community to go out there and give other developers a run for their money when it comes to creating Mashups and talk about their technology as a good option when it comes to creating online applications with rich user interfaces.

While I have worked with Flash developers in the past, I always came across a certain mistrust in the technology from the business side. For example a financial application we developed didn’t get the Flex interface we prototyped because of “Flash being Active-X” and got replaced by an inaccessible obtrusive 3MB big JavaScript solution.

Working closely and loosely with amazingly talented Flash developers like Steven Webster, Ian McBurnie, Aral Balkan and Niqui Merret made me aware that there is the same “big thing to happen” feeling and enthusiasm that shook the JavaScript community some years ago.

JavaScript developers discarded the stigmata of the “move stuff around, require certain browser settings and pop things up” days of DHTML and embraced Dom Scripting and later on Ajax taking over the web application world by storm. By now having JavaScript as an interest on your CV does not get you a confused shake of the head but is actually sought after by headhunters.

There are a lot of parallels in the misunderstandings of JavaScript as a technology in the past and those that keep Flash from being a mainstream developer technology and I will try to show them and offer options to set these straight.

Currently hot technologies like maps and online video show a lot of potential but can become even better with proper Flex or Flash applications. Flash already does help JavaScript and HTML based applications like the flickr uploader to work around JS restrictions. In terms of accessibility, Flash applications can be a lot better than Ajax apps which simulate rich interfaces by using HTML and CSS and dynamically changing the latter.

While people woo the webdeveloper world with JavaScript and Canvas effects that are quite common inside Flash and nothing new you don’t see many Flash apps being featured on web development news blogs and mailing lists. Yes, Flash is not a web standard, but I personally think it is time we realise that we miss out a lot of fun and options that we just cannot achieve with JS and HTML, or simply simulate badly.

Let’s see how it goes. :)

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